OAU Created (Organization of African Unity) opening conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In May 1963, thirty-two independent African States, with genuine hopes expectations and visions for the continent of Africa, assembled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to create the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

Organization of African Unity OAU Opening Conference

OAU opening conference at the African Hall, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

What is very interesting, is that five years before the OAU opening conference, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie made a speech, “Ethiopia’s Part” for InterAfrica:

In this development, Ethiopia will have its own particular, and We feel, important role to play. It is for this reason that We have charged Our beloved Son Prince Sahle Selassie with the mission to be Our personal representative and the head of the Ethiopian Delegation to the Conference of Independent African States.

Ethiopia knows how hard-won is independence and how vital it is that men be jealous of their freedom and be ever prepared to defend it. Ethiopia knows, as her history has taught her, that the world is small, and that co-operation among all nations of the world, East and West alike, is not only possible and desirable, but indispensible for the welfare of mankind.

Ethiopia knows that the willingness of the Independent States of Africa to co-operate and work together in solving their common problems and achieving their common goals is essential to the continued progress of the African peoples.

It is a propitious omen for the future that at this very moment the free nations of Africa are giving tangible evidence of their determination to work together not only for their own good but for the good of Africa and the entire world. The task is great. It demand wise judgment and statesmanship of the highest order.

It requires unceasing labour, a dedication to fundamental principles and objectives and a determination to overcome all obstacles, however large. He who suffers conquers, and in the final resort, wins the crown of victory.

We pray that Almighty God will bless the Conference with strength and wisdom and crown its efforts with success.”                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                        Apr. 15, 1958


As I reflect on this speech, I think of Revelation 22:16, “I Yesus (Jesus) have sent mine angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright morning star”.

In January 1962, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Ato Ketema Yifru, received invitations from the Casablanca and Monrovia group to attend their conference.

Ketema Yifru began his term as Foreign Minister in 1961 by concentrating his endeavors on bringing Ethiopia in alignment with mainstream Africa. Mr. Yifru gained experience while in USA in the early fifties. Along with his experience and the witness of Ethiopia’s abandonment by the League of Nations, Yifru affirmed his Pan-Africanist stance. The Foreign Minister strongly believed that Ethiopia’s true allies were his fellow African brothers and sisters. For Ketema Yifru, the invitation from the Casablanca and Monrovia groups would in due time bring his Pan-Africanist agenda to the forefront.

In Emperor Haile Selassie’s office, Ketema Yifru presented his case in a manner which drew the Emperor’s attention. Yifru reminded the Emperor of 1935 when the League of Nations abandoned and failed to protect Ethiopia from external aggression. Yifru advised the Emperor that a preventive measure should be taken to protect Ethiopia’s future interests. Ketema Yifru explained that Ethiopia’s national interest could be better served if coordinated with its fellow African countries. Yifru advised the Emperor to embrace his African identity and become a willing participant in the continent’s upcoming political affairs.

The information learned about Emperor Haile Selassie and Ketema Yifru’s loyalty brings Deuteronomy 7:9 to mind:

Know therefore that the LORD God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

Conference on Ethiopian Foreign Policy

The discussion between the Emperor and his Foreign Minister led to a national conference, chaired by Emperor Haile Selassie. After reasoning and a proposal by Yifru Ketema for a new foreign policy, the Emperor approved of the Foreign Minister’s proposal. After the Emperor’s approval, the Foreign Minister was given full freedom on the united Africa issue and was only required to report on his progress.

The Ethiopian government had a choice to attend the Monrovia or Casablanca Conference. Foreign Minister Yifru had to decide which conference to attend and present his decision to the Emperor. Foreign Minister Yifru decided that it would be in the best interest of his country and the cause for unity to accept the invitation from the Monrovia Group. The logic behind his thinking was that the Monrovia Group outnumbered the Casablanca Group twenty-two to six. If Ethiopia had aligned itself with the Casablanca Group, it would only help in widening the ever-growing rift between the two groups. In short, Ketema Yifru’s decision was based on a pragmatic approach rather than an ideological stand.

At a time when others had publicly declared their alliance to one of the two groups, the Ethiopian government was openly declaring its neutrality.

The Monrovia Summit Conference

At the Monrovia Group conference in Lagos, Emperor Haile Selassie launched Ethiopia’s peacemaking effort in his speech by stating. “…today, again, We cannot help feeling that our tasks are made more difficult because several African nations are unrepresented in these halls.

But however strongly that no African can escape the circumstances which have brought us together in Lagos or evade his solemn duty to work with his fellow Africans for the cause of this great continent, and We pledge Ourself to labour unstintingly in the discharge of this obligation during the days ahead…”

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister began to lobby the conference participants to have the next meeting in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Through Ketema Yifru’s relentless efforts, all participants of the Monrovia Summit accepted Ketema Yifru’s proposal to have the next meeting in Addis Ababa.

oau-african union-opening conference

At their meeting, Foreign Minister Ketema Yifru and Guinea President Sekou Toure, Yifru pointed out conflicting views of the Monrovia and Casablanca groups. Yifru also advised President Toure that the conflicting views could cause a permanent division within the continent. Convinced of Yifru’s African unity agenda, President Sekou agreed to bring reconciliation between the two groups. During his talks with Emperor Haile Selassie, President Sekou reaffirmed his government’s position.

It was agreed by the Ethiopian and Guinean government that the May 1963 Addis Ababa Summit Conference, which was originally set for the Monrovia Group, would be a Summit Conference of all the independent African States.

Following the mediation, the two heads of state issued a declaration that the governments of Ethiopia and Guinea had decided to call an all African Summit Conference in Addis Ababa, in expectations of resolving the differences that existed between the Casablanca and the Monrovia Groups.

After the call for an African Summit Conference in Addis Ababa, the next step was to request both the Monrovia and the Casablanca groups to attend the Summit Conference. It was decided that the Ethiopian government, represented by Ketema Yifru, would lobby both groups, while Mr. Diallo Telli represented the Guinean government and he became the first Secretary General of the OAU, who would lobby the Casablanca Group members.

Thirty-two independent African States accepted the invitation for May 1963. The leaders complied to beginning the summit with a Foreign Ministers Conference to smooth out numerous issues, including the drafting of a OUA charter.

Before any accordance on adapting the charter, the Heads of States Conference was convened on May 22, 1963.

Did you find some interesting facts or information about the creation of the OAU? What was the most interesting information you discovered?

Let us know in the comments. Next post will be about Ethiopia’s National Day, which is officially called Derg Downfall Day. 


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